A Way of Being

Carl Rogers

(My note: This passage of the book is translated by me from the original Czech version, so there might be some mistakes. The page may not match the original either).

Experiences in communication, page 8

“I believe I know why its satisfying to me to hear someone. When I can really hear someone, it puts me in touch with him, it enriches my life. It is through hearing people that I have learned all that I know about individuals, about personality, about interpersonal relationships. There is another peculiar satisfaction in really hearing someone. It is like listening to the music of the spheres, because beyond the immediate message of the person, no matter what that might be, there is the universal. Hidden in all of the personal communications which I really hear there seem to be orderly psychological laws, aspects of the same order we find in the universe as a whole. So there is both the satisfaction of hearing this person and also the satisfaction of feeling one’s self in touch with what is universally true. When I say that I enjoy hearing someone, I mean of course, hearing deeply, I mean that I hear the words, the thoughts, the feeling tones, the personal meaning, even the meaning that is below the conscious intent of the speaker. Sometimes too, in a message which superficially is not very important. I hear a deep human cry that lies buried and unknown far below the surface of the person. 

So I have learned to ask myself, can I hear the sounds and sense the shape of this other person’s inner world? Can I resonate to what he is saying so deeply that I sense the meanings he is afraid of yet would like to communicate, as well as those he knows? 

I think, for example, of an interview I had with an adolescent boy. Like many an adolescent today he was saying at the outset of the interview that he had no goals. When I questioned him on this, he insisted even more strongly that he had no goals whatsoever, not even one. I said, “There isn’t anything you want to do? “Nothing…. Well, yeh, I want to keep on living. I remember distinctly my feeling at that moment. I resonated very deeply to this phrase. He might simply be telling me that like everyone else, he wanted to live. On the other hand, he might be telling me – and this seemed to be a definite possibility – that at some point the question of whether or not to live had been a real issue with him. So I tried to resonate to him at all levels. I didn’t know for certain what the message was. I simply wanted to be open to any of the meanings that this statement might have, including the possibility that he might at one time have considered suicide. my being willing and able to listen to him at all levels is perhaps one off the things that made it possible for him to tell me, before the end of the interview, that not long before he had been on the point of blowing his brain out. This little episode is an example of what I mean by wanting to really hear someone at all levels at which he is endeavoring to communicate.”